tv Secret State Inside North Korea CNN September 24, 2017 7:30pm-8:30pm PDT
>> announcer: the following is a cnn special report. this is the north korea you know. this is the north korea you've never seen. stories you've never heard. >> is that a legend, or did that actually happen? >> translator: our general is really a person who heaven sent to us. >> places you've never been. people with a common enemy. >> who do you want to fight? >> translator: to fight the
sworn enemy, the americans. >> what if i told you i'm an american? you want to shoot me too? >> unprecedented access, hidden from the world until now. come with me to "the secret state: inside north korea." ♪ north korea, a nation holding its nuclear sword over the u.s. and its allies, threatening to strike at any time. a society in a constant state of readiness for war. life on the inside is a mystery to most of the world. i've reported from north korea more than a dozen times over the last few years. each time, we open the door a
little more and see this country and its people in unexpected ways. just like this. yep, even in north korea, kids love video games. for these 14 and 15-year-olds, these are not just games. this is practice for real life. most of these boys and a lot of the girls will spend their first years of adulthood serving in the korean people's army, just like their parents and grandparents before them. >> what do you like about this game? >> translator: killing the enemy. >> hitting the enemy? who is the enemy? >> translator: americans. >> this hatred of americans stems from the korean war. north korea contradicts western historians, saying that america started the war that killed millions of civilians and divided the korean peninsula.
>> who do you want to fight? >> translator: to fight the sworn enemy, americans. >> what do they teach you about americans in school? >> translator: they forcibly invaded us, slaughtered our people, buried them, buried them alive. buried them alive and killed them. >> so they teach you that the americans are the enemy, and you need to shoot them, to fight them? >> translator: yes. >> here's where things get awkward. what if i told you i'm an american? do you want to shoot me too? >> translator: yes. there are good people. we'll see if you're a good person or a bad person. >> i'm a good american, so don't shoot me. >> translator: um, no. i won't shoot. >> this is the paradox of north korea. smiling young people, friendly, polite, even as they tell me how much they hate the united states. from their earliest years, these children are told america could
tack at anytime, told they must prepare for the next war. in north korea, government minders watch our every move and restrict what we can film, even if this is what we want to see. high school students horsing around at the beach. i can't help but wonder what do they actually know about america? >> translator: no. i just wear it to play sports. >> have you ever heard of portland? >> translator: haven't heard of it. >> have you seen any american movies or heard any american music? >> translator: no. >> ever heard of facebook or twitter or instagram? >> translator: no, not at all. >> these teens have been told americans act and look scary. >> what would you expect from an american? what would you expect an american to be like?
>> translator: big nose with a hairy chest. >> big nose and hairy chest, huh? well, i don't have a hairy chest. you tell me, do i have a big nose? >> translator: with a nose like that, it is sort of. >> have you guys ever met an american before? they become visibly uncomfortable when they learn i'm an american. i'm the first one they've met. i won't interrupt your game any longer. thank you very much. it was nice to meet you guys. next, our government minders want us to see this place, the international children's camp in wong son, considered the best in north korea. entire school classes compete for a chance to spend two weeks at camp. many of these kids have never seen anything like it. but this is something they know well. the first thing you see when you walk into this camp, this statue. everything here, just like everything else in north korea, centers around the leaders. ♪ these children have en taught a fierce loyalty to their
nation's leaders, all members of the kim family. photos and statues are everywhere. songs of praise are staples. ♪ even at this birthday party, students sing about the leaders. >> translator: he gives us more love than even our parents can give. >> why do you consider your leader, kim jong-un, like your father? >> translator: he's affectionate and more caring than my own parents. he gives us more love than even our parents could give. >> this boy, who just turned 14, says his own parents can't afford to give him a meal like this. many of north korea's 5 million children come from towns and villages where the basics -- electricity, clean water, nutritious food -- are not always available. >> translator: i declare i will become a true member of the children's union, who studies
better in order to repay the love of respected leader kim jong-un. ♪ >> these young people are the future of north korea, an entire generation brought up to worship their supreme leader. no skepticism, no dissent, no questions. only loyalty for life. ♪ when heartburn hits, fight back fast with tums smoothies. it starts dissolving the instant it touches your tongue. and neutralizes stomach acid at the source. ♪ tum -tum -tum -tum smoothies! only from tums
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capital, pyongyang, to the coast of city of wonsan. our 125-mile journey on this bumpy road takes almost five hours. we've been driving for a couple of hours through the countryside, and we've just gotten stopped at a checkpoint. already several minutes now, our minders are speaking with the police officer. not sure what's happening, but he doesn't seem to want to let us pass. travel here is restricted, and getting stopped can be nerve-racking. but we're finally allowed to pass. it turns out the concern this time is only about our big van disturbing the road work ahead. driving on, we see men and women laboring in dark tunnels.
much of the north korean countryside is undeveloped with very little infrastructure. but that also means the landscape is relatively untouched, and i must say the scenery is striking. majestic mountains. thick forests. and this seaside city. we made it here to wonsan, a midsized industrial city, the fifth largest in north korea, on the east coast, popular for tourists, known for great seafood, fishing, and something else. wonsan is one of north korea's main missile launch sites, and they've been launching missiles at an unprecedented pace. north korea even has intercontinental ballistic missiles, potentially nuclear-capable and within striking range of the u.s. for the first time ever.
in the 1980s, north korea's founder, president kim il-sung, launched the country's first missile. but since marshal kim jong-un came to power in 2011, he's advanced north korea's nuclear and missile programs fasr than anyone ever predicted. why do they keep doing this? for one, propaganda. each launch helps north korea's leaders project power, but also missiles are like an insurance policy for the regime, protecting north korea from the u.s. and its allies. so i have to tell you, your city is very well known around the world because of all the missiles that keep being launched from here. have you ever heard the missiles? >> translator: of course. wham, we see it going up. >> kim un-tek has lived here in wonsan his whole life.
>> as a north korean when you see these missiles in the sky, what message does that send to you? >> it gives me great pride. >> so did this massive military drill along the beach, personally supervised by kim jong-un. many north koreans don't even understand why the u.s. and the world feel threatened. >> translator: why is the trump administration constantly imposing sanctions and stuff when we are doing these missile launches and all for our own defense capability? we're defending ourselves. >> is there any criticism, anything you'd like to see your leader or government do differently? >> translator: nothing at all. i'm so satisfied. >> keep in mind during all my trips, i've never heard anyone criticize the authoritarian government. north korea has zero tolerance for dissent of any kind.
what happens to people who break the rules? the united nations says hidden in the hills, the country has a network of prison camps where torture and executions are common. north korean officials deny the allegations. they do say criminals are punished appropriately. aside from missiles, one of wonsan's proudest achievements is a new hydroelectric power plant. we're told the lights in the city stay on for 24 hours a day, a rarity in north korea. in fact, when we stop for dinner at a teahouse miles away from wonsan, the lights go out within minutes. nobody seems fazed by it. we dine on wild pheasant by flashlight. north korea may have mastered launching missiles, but generating electricity is an ongoing struggle.
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ended. the quiet countryside is riddled with land mines. no filming allowed on the roads here. now our government minders are letting us do a little souvenir shopping. i've never seen a gift shop like this. these postcards are somef th most popular items. this one reads, we will crush the u.s. attempts for a nuclear war. this one, to the u.s. hard line, we will counter with the ultrahard line. and you can buy them right here. if you think the postcards are intense, wait till you see the posters. you don't need to read korean to know what this means here. the u.s. capitol there. the symbolism says it all. yep. that's the capitol. and that's a giant fist crushing the u.s. did you see the american being annihilated by his own missile? i'm sensing a theme here. what makes all of this even more surreal is where we are.
the korean demilitarized zone or dmz, a place unlike any other in the world. to understand the dmz, we need to go back to the end of world war ii. the soviets and americans divided korea just like they did germany. and the korean war set the two superpowers against each other with koreans caught in the middle. 3 million of them died. technically the war never ended. an armistice agreement left north and south korea facing each other down across the 38th parallel, the dmz. my tour guide is a north korean lieutenant colonel. when you actually live here, does it feel tense? does it feel like you're on the brink of a war? >> translator: i think it's not an exaggeration to say we are living at the brk of w given that we are constantly receiving
threats of war. >> south korean and american soldiers staring down north korean soldiers and vice versa. they call this the demilitarized zone, but it's the exact opposite. both sides have masses of soldiers up and down this heavily fortified border, pointing weapons at each other. it's considered one of the most dangerous flash points in the world. and it's getting worse. a lot as changed since i came here back in 2015. more nuclear tests, dozens of missile launches. does it feel more tense now? >> translator: yes. we can say the state of affairs is more tense, but it's rather the united states' continued hostile policy against north korea reaching its peak. >> if you got the order right now, what would the military do? >> translator: as soon as we receive the order from our supreme commander, we will liberate south korea, and we will turn the u.s. mainland into a sea of fire. >> maybe it's time to change the subject.
the lieutenant colonel and i are both the same age, 36. but our lives couldn't be more different. still, we must have some common ground. what's your favorite kind of music? >> translator: my favorite song is our eternal revolutionary song, the song praising our general, kim jong-un. ♪ >> i really like classic rock. have you ever heard any classic rock? >> translator: i think i've heard of it before, but i'm not sure. >> what's your favorite sport? >> translator: i like basketball. >> you like basketball? oh, i'm terrible at basketball. okay. so we don't have much in common, but i think he's warming up to me. we say good-bye as friends. >> thank you very much. it's good to see you, and i'm glad we're meeting like this and not on the battlefield.
next stop, kaesong, the north korean city closest to the dmz. what's it like to be so close to south korea but you're not able to go? >> translator: it hurts. and you've been asking about south korea a lot. it's a place i want to go. >> we are so close to seoul, south korea. thriving economy, modern skyline. do you ever ask yourself why you don't have that here? >> translator: we have pyongyang. it's been built with our own power, our own technology, our own independent economy. how can seoul compete with that? >> i can't help but wonder what would his life be like if his family ended up just a few miles south after the korean war. driving back to pyongyang, i have no idea we're about to experience one of the strangest days i've ever had in north korea.
it begins like every other morning in pyongyang. ♪ this music is the city's alarm clock, played every day beginning at 5:00 a.m. to commemorate the sacrifices of north korea's leaders. we head to the pyongyang international airport for the arrival of a v.i.p. dennis rodman has been invited back for another round of so-called basketball diplomacy. are you bringing a message from president trump to north korea's supreme leader, kim jong-un? >> i'm just here to come see some friends and have a good time. >> distracted by the rodman circus, we have no idea a secret handover is happening at the pyongyang airport. american college student otto warmbier is quietly put on a u.s. government plane, a final sad chapter in a story that began a year and a half ago.
warmbier came here on a private sightseeing tour. after a night out on the town to celebrate new year's eve, the university of virginia student was accused of trying to steal a propaganda banner from the wall of his hotel. for that, he got a 15-year sentence. soon after, mysteriously, he ended up with a brain injury. >> in north korea, otto warmbier has been released. let's go straight to our will ripley. >> this was one of the hardest reports i've ever had to give. i'd spoken just weeks earlier with warmbier's parents. at the time, they had no idea about their son's condition. but this reunion is not the happy reunion that his family had been hoping for as recently as a week ago. because that's when they learned, according to a family statement, that otto warmbier has been in a coma since march of 2016. in june of 2017, he returned to his hometown near cincinnati, ohio, in a vegetative state.
otto warmbier died six days later. he was 22. ♪ as i'm writing this, at least three other americans remain in north korean custody. the state department has since banned most u.s. citizens from traveling here. the stakes have never been higher. hey grandpa. hey, kid. really good to see you. you too. you tell grandma you were going fishing again? maybe. (vo) the best things in life keep going. that's why i got a subaru, too. introducing the all-new crosstrek. love is out there. find it in a subaru crosstrek. even if you're trying your best.be a daily struggle, along with diet and exercise, once-daily toujeo® may help you control your blood sugar.
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we're heading 40 miles south of pyongyang to north hwanghae province, a place where people are definitely not used to seeing foreigners. even getting permission to come here is complicated. there's a lot of discussions that are happening, making sure that we're going to the right place, speaking to the right people. but we're not headed for a sensitive military site or secret prison camp. what we want to see is a farm. farming is a sensitive subject in north korea. the nation still struggles to feed its own people. limited farmland and a
significant drought could put millions at risk. the united nations world food program estimates 70% of the population, nearly 18 million north koreans, don't have a sufficiently diverse diet. they survive on basic staples -- rice, porridge, fermented cabbage called kimchi. beef, chicken and pork are often too expensive. this handful of farmers seems to be putting on a demonstration for our benefit. after they finish, i try to ask them some questions. most of the group is camera-shy, but this woman has plenty to say. >> translator: the thing i am fond of for us farmers is the land, just taking care of the la. >> how long ve you been doing this? >> translator: it's been about ten years since i came here. >> what's the farthest that you've ever traveled from home?
>> translator: not that far. >> if you could go -- if you could leave north korea and go to any other place in the world, where would you like to visit? >> translator: i want to visit the u.s. >> her answer surprises me. no north korean has ever told me they want to visit the united states. >> translator: i want to see what on earth the u.s. looks like to be harassing korean people so much. it's so hard for us right now because of it. i really curse the americans. i want to destroy their land. >> now i understand her answer. >> it's very nice to meet you. i wish you the best. ♪ so now we're being taken to a family's home. this is a family that has been
selected for us. like most families in this farming co-op, they grow their own crops in the front yard. offering to share some of their food with us, they tell me this is a typical lunch. it's got a kick to it. it's strong. duck eggs, bean paste, and rice wrapped in lettuce with garlic and spices. simple, healthy, delicious. a lot of people in the outside world think that people in north korea still are starving. how is the fd supply now? i ask about a time most north koreans didn't have enough to eat. the north korean famine of the late 1990s. hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of north koreans died of starvation. >> translator: we ate tree bark after going up to the mountain for food and wondered just how
long we'll have to do this. but it's not a problem now compared to that. this is all homegrown. after farming for a year, we get rice and money to live off of, which is great. this house, i got it for free. >> he gives me a tour. like every north korean living room, there are portraits of the late leaders. >> translator: this is a photo of our family and the general when he came to visit. >> you have a dvd player here. what kind of dvds do you like to watch? >> translator: cooking and lifestyle, new songs, movies. i watch a lot of them. >> have you ever seen any western movies? >> translator: oh, we don't
watch them. we wouldn't even if we could. >> he does watch state tv, and he listens to propaganda broadcasts on the radio. but his favorite ritual, like many of his generation, reading the newspaper. how important is the state media to getting information about what's happening? >> translator: it's very important. it gets broadcast right away to everyone through television and newspapers on that day. the reaction is amazing. >> so what do you know about president trump? what have you heard about him? >> translator: my opinion from reading the newspaper, i think president trump is an impulsive person. i think he's impulsive and not calm, and so he's losing the trust of the american people. >> trust, something so few americans have in politicians and the media.
but what about here in north korea? here the message is tightly controlled. the leader is almost always the lead story, and there's only one source of information -- the government. so you believe everything you read in the paper? >> translator: yes. bie it, 100%. >> ask anyone, and they'llive you the same answer. no fake news in north korea. day 13. if only this were as easy as saving $600
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this is the north korea you've seen on the news, the north korea they want you to see. goose-stepping, chest puffing displays of national unity and military might. perfectly executed by tens if not hundreds of thousands of people. what you don't see, countless hours of mandatory practice before work, after school, on sundays, in the rain and the
cold. north korea knows how to put on one hell of a show. ♪ this is a much more modest version. bright and early each morning, these women are out waving flags to motivate fellow citizens to work harder. discipline, dedication, revolutionary fervor, it's all expected if you're one of around 3 million north koreans allowed to live in pyongyang. we get a rare view from above, flying over the city in a soviet-era helicopter. pyongyang has a surprisingly colorful, modern skyline.
sure, it's full of grandiose monuments idolizing the late supreme leaders, the ruling workers' party of korea, the ideology of self-reliance. but recent years have seen a slew of new construction projects, futuristic buildings, skyscrapers, all pet projects of their supreme leader, kim jong-un. he ordered north korean soldiers to build this entire street of residential high rises in one year. top party officials give all the credit to their leader for his tireless work. it's here we find north korea's version of the apple store. the brand is named for the iconic korean folk song. the store manager says out of three north korean cell phone brands, this is by far the top seller. what are the main differences between the three brands?
like why pick the arirang versus the other two? >>he arirang brand is well known to our people. it is known as a designer label. >> notice the price over there. $350 for a phone is a lot of money for anyone, anywhere. how do people afford these phones? >> translator: it just means our people's living standard went up that much. >> we never do get a clear answer as to how people can actually afford all this. north korea's average income is around $4 a day. here people are buying smartphone, tablets, high-fi speakers, hdtvs. this customer says she loves listening to music and playing games on her new phone, including one that looks an awful lot like angry birds. do you like sharing photos with your friends? >> translator: yeah. >> do you like taking selfies? >> translator: yeah. >> that's good.
i like yours better. north koreans can send text messages, read the news, check the latest scores. one thing most cannot do -- connect to the internet. they can only access a state-controlled intranet completely monitored and censored. do you have anything like google here in north korea? >> translator: yes, we do. we have our own data search system, our version of google. it's a search engine. >> the search results, only government-sanctioned contact. what about social media? do you have anything here like facebook or instagram or twitter, but the north korean version? >> translator: yes, we have it. it's currently only being used on computers, but we're still working on developing it in our own way for cell phones. >> next we visit a north korean
department store where filming is usually strictly forbidden. we see people buying groceries, mostly north korean products like beer. also plenty of brands you might recognize, usually chinese imports. china continues to trade heavily with north korea despite international sanctions. you can find designer fashions, high-end appliances, and on the top floor, there's a huge food court. we see people piling their plates with all kinds of korean food. yes, i did try the fish head. i also tried the american-style fast food complete with pretty familiar packaging. it doesn't get more american than french fries and milkshakes. even the color scheme. it's actually good. after lunch, more shopping. all the art in north korea is state-sanctioned, which means a lot of landscapes and plenty of
siberian tigers, considered an unofficial national symbol. pyongyang has a growing consumer class, and for them living standards are improving under kim jong-un. the north korean economy grew by almost 4% in 2016 according to south korean central bank estimates. ♪ which means people have more ways to enjoy their rare time off, like this group of factory workers having a picnic and singing karaoke. they're happy to share their meal with us and seem even happier to let loose. we expect north koreans to work hard. this, we don't expect. ♪
aging fleet of soviet planes operated by air koryo, north korea's only airline, still flying despite sanctions, with regular international flights to russia and china. our flight takes us 400 miles north of pyongyang to a place cnn has never been allowed before. as a western journalist, even setting foot here is extraordinary. samjiyon county, right along the chinese border is a mountainous region. north korea's nuclear test site is in the very next province. we're not here for nuclear tests. we're here for mt. paekt the ghest point on the korean peninsula, also an active
volcano. state propaganda glorifies the kim family for their mt. paektu bloodline. north korean society prizes racial purity. a paektu bloodline is considered a noble heritage, tied to the ancient rulers, ancient, legendary kings of the korean peninsula. their tombs are national landmarks visited by droves of north korean citizens. but the ultimate journey is to the mountain itself. still hours away on bumpy dirt roads.
we've never been this far inside rural north korea. >> can we take pictures? no? no. >> we catch only fleeting glances of the groups marching by. quick peeks at the living conditions in these deep, rural areas. we're allowed to stop just for a w minus in a tiny farming village. the children on their way home from school are amused. it's quite possible they've never seen anyone who looks like me. we're looking at them, but they're looking at us as well. every time i try to take a picture of those girls, they run
away. we eventually make it to this sleepy town. the town's centerpiece yet another monument to the late president, kim il sung. we're shown a bullet riddled building where he led a surprise attack against the japanese. this is a typical north korean village. china is about five miles that way up over that hill, and this is a simple life out here. you don't see shiny buildings. you don't see a whole lot of new construction. you see people living a slow, simple life. down another windy road, another sight north koreans consider sacred -- a cabin near mt. paektu north korea claims is the birthplace of general kim jong-il. outside historians say he was actually born in russia, but
here our guide tells the story of his supposedly mystical birth. >> translator: so it was really cold, and the weather was not normal, but somehow the day the general was born, the strong winds stopped all of a sudden. the sun began shining through. everything was bright, and a quiet calm took over. the flowers bloomed, and in the sky was a particularly bright star. >> is that a legend, or did that actually happen? >> translator: yes, it actually happened. it's not a legend. our general is really a person who heaven sent to us. so he changed the weather too. it's a true story. >> people from the outside hear these stories, and they wonder how any of this could possibly be true. >> translator: it's hard to explain in one word, but our general gris so wcan't say it's only a legend. nature actually transformed
itself to announce the birth of our general to the whole world, blessing it. that's how it happened. ♪ >> i realize for north koreans, this is their faith just like the bible, koran or torah. when they come to mt. paektu, they're making a pilgrimage. ♪ why is this place so special and meaningful for you? >> translator: mt. paektu is the soul of korea's revolution, the spirit of our people and our pride. we are members of the great country of paektu.
♪ >> you know, in a lot of ways this mountain is the way the north koreans view their lives, one big, tough climb. as we reach the top, one of the most breathtaking views i've ever seen. now i understand why north koreans are visibly emotional when they come here. mt. paektu symbolizes their achievements. nice to meet you.
after more than a dozen trips to north korea, i can't help but believe at heart we share the same hopes, the same struggles for food and shelter, for safety and security, to learn and to live. ♪ but i wonder is it all at risk? on september 3rd, north korea tested its most powerful nuclear weapon ever. >> north korea will be met with fire and fury. >> american officials responded with words of war. >> he is begging for war. >> and shows of force. now the world waits and watches, uncertain of our common future.